JAPAN TO BOOST INVESTMENT IN LIFE SCIENCES
Japan's Science Ministry has called for a budget of JPY85.58bn (US$745.76mn) for life sciences in 2006, a year-on-year increase of 2.6%.
The funds are to be focused on areas including the establishment of a genomics database, promoting collaborations between universities and national research institutes, and R&D in therapeutic areas such as personalised medicine.
However, the success of the ministry's lobbying will likely be challenged by the government's commitment to cost-containment. This has reportedly resulted in reduced investment in R&D, while also discouraging companies from initiating drug discovery work. Japan's health spending reached an all-time high of JPY31.4trn (US$283.63bn) in 2004, driven by a rapidly ageing population.
Despite this, biotech is becoming increasingly important in Japan, with one recent survey enthusiastically predicting sales of JPY25trl (US$217.74bn) by 2010. Although most companies in the country consider this figure too high, there is an acknowledged potential for biotech, especially in bio-engineered antibody products.
Industry sources have stressed that the Japanese government must find ways
to reward domestic companies for their research efforts, while continuing to
battle healthcare costs. Leading producers claims that failure to so will undermine
competitiveness against foreign rivals.